Modern Bad Men

Frank James

Frank James

Frank James was slighter than his brother, with light hair and blue eyes, and a ragged, reddish mustache. Frank surrendered to Governor Crittenden himself at Jefferson City, in October 1882, taking off his revolvers and saying that no man had touched them but himself since 1861. He was sentenced to the penitentiary for life but later pardoned, as he was thought to be dying of consumption. At this writing, he is still alive, somewhat old and bent now, but leading a quiet and steady life, and showing no disposition to return to his old ways. He is sometimes seen around the race tracks, where he does but little talking. Frank James has had many apologists, and his life should be considered in connection with the environments in which he grew up. He killed many men, but he was never as cold and cruel as Jesse, and of the two he was the braver man, men say who knew them both. He never was known to back down under any circumstances.

The fate of the Younger boys was much mingled with that of the James boys, but the end of the careers of the former came in more dramatic fashion. The wonder is that both parties should have clung together so long, for it is certain that Cole Younger once intended to kill Jesse James, and one night he came near killing George Shepherd through malicious statements Jesse James had made to him about the latter. Shepherd met Cole at the house of a friend named Hudspeth, in Jackson County, and their host put them in the same bed that night for want of better accommodations. “After we lay down,” said Shepherd later, in describing this, “I saw Cole reach up under his pillow and draw out a pistol, which he put beside him under the cover. Not to be taken unawares, I at once grasped my own pistol and shoved it down under the covers beside me. Were it to save my life, I couldn’t tell what reason Cole had for becoming my enemy. We talked very little, but just lay there watching each other. He was behind and I on the front side of the bed, and during the entire night we looked into each other’s eyes and never moved. It was the most wretched night I ever passed in my life.” So much may at times be the price of being “bad.” By good fortune, they did not kill each other, and the next day Cole told Shepherd that he had expected him to shoot on sight, as Jesse James had said he would. Explanations then followed. It nearly came to a collision between Cole Younger and Jesse James later, for Cole challenged him to fight, and it was only with difficulty that their friends accommodated the matter.

James-Younger Gang

The James-Younger Gang – Left to right: Cole” Younger,
Jesse Woodson James, Bob Younger, and Frank James.

The history of the Younger boys is tragic all the way through. Their father was assassinated, their mother was forced to set fire to her own house and destroy it under penalty of death; three sisters were arrested and confined in a barracks at Kansas City, which during a high wind fell in, killed two of the girls and crippled the other. John Younger was a murderer at the age of fourteen, and how many times Cole Younger was a murderer, with or without his wish, will never be known. He was shot three times in one fight in guerrilla days, and probably few bad men ever carried off more lead than he.

The story of the Northfield bank robbery in Minnesota, which ended so disastrously to the bandits who undertook it, is interesting as showing what brute courage, and, indeed, what fidelity and fortitude may at times be shown by dangerous specimens of bad men. The purpose of the robbery was criminal, its carrying out was attended with murder, and the revenge for it came sharp and swift. In all the annals of desperadoes, there is not a battle more striking than this which occurred in a sleepy and contented little village in the quiet northern farming country, where no one for a moment dreamed that the bandits of the rumored bloody lands along the Missouri River would ever trouble themselves to come. The events immediately connected with this tragedy, the result of which was the ending of the Younger gang, were as hereinafter described.

Bill Chadwell, alias Styles, a member of the James boys’ gang, had formerly lived in Minnesota. He drew a pleasing picture of the wealth of that country, and the ease with which it could be obtained by bandit methods. Cole Younger was opposed to going so far from home but was overruled. He finally joined the others — Frank and Jesse James, Clell Miller, Jim and Bob Younger, Charlie Pitts and Bill Chadwell. They went to Minnesota by rail, and, after looking over the country, purchased good horses, and prepared to raid the little town of Northfield, in Rice County. They carried their enterprise into effect on September 7, 1876, using methods with which earlier experience had made them familiar. They rode into the middle of the town and opened fire, ordering everyone off the streets.  Jesse James, Charlie Pitts, and Bob Younger entered the bank, where they found cashier J. L. Haywood, with two clerks, Frank Wilcox and A. E. Bunker.

Bunker started to run, and Bob Younger shot him through the shoulder. They ordered Haywood to open the safe, but he bluntly refused, even though they slightly cut him in the throat to enforce obedience. Firing now began from the citizens on the street, and the bandits in the bank hurried in their work, contenting themselves with such loose cash as they found in the drawers and on the counter. As they started to leave the bank, Haywood made a motion toward a drawer as if to find a weapon. Jesse James turned and shot him through the head, killing him instantly.

Northfield Bank, Minnesota

Northfield Bank, Minnesota

These three of the bandits then sprang out into the street. They were met by the fire of Doctor Wheeler and several other citizens, Hide, Stacey, Manning and Bates. Doctor Wheeler was across the street in an upstairs room, and as Bill Chadwell undertook to mount his horse, Wheeler fired and shot him dead. Manning fired at Clell Miller, who had mounted, and shot him from his horse.

Cole Younger was by this time ready to retreat, but he rode up to Miller and removed from his body his belt and pistols. Manning fired again and killed the horse behind which Bob Younger was hiding, and an instant later a shot from Wheeler struck Bob in the right elbow. Although this arm was disabled Bob shifted his pistol to his left hand and fired at Bates, cutting a furrow through his cheek, but not killing him. About this time a Norwegian by the name of Gustavson appeared on the street, and not halting at the order to do so, he was shot through the head by one of the bandits, receiving a wound from which he died a few days later. The gang then began to scatter and retreat. Jim Younger was on foot and was wounded. Cole rode back up the street and took the wounded man on his horse behind him. The entire party then rode out of town to the west, not one of them escaping without severe wounds.

As soon as the bandits had departed, news was sent by telegraph, notifying the surrounding country of the robbery. Sheriffs, policemen, and detectives rallied in such numbers that the robbers were hard put to it to escape alive. A state reward of $1,000 for each was published, and all lower Minnesota organized itself into a determined manhunt. The gang undertook to get over the Iowa line, and they managed to keep away from their pursuers until the morning of the 13th, a week after the robbery. The six survivors were surrounded on that day in a strip of timber. Frank and Jesse James broke through, riding the same horse. They were fired upon, a bullet striking Frank James in the right knee, and passing through into Jesse’s right thigh. None the less, the two got away, stole a horse apiece that night, and passed on to the Southwest. They rode bareback, and now and again enforced a horse trade with a farmer or livery-stable man. They got down near Sioux Falls and there met Doctor Mosher, whom they compelled to dress their wounds and to furnish them with horses and clothing. Later on, their horses gave out, and they hired a wagon and kept on. Their escape seems incomprehensible, yet it is the case that they got quite clear, finally reaching Missouri.

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